Glossary Header


We know that when you start shopping for a new home, you may encounter some words and terms that are unfamiliar to you.
This glossary will help you to become a better informed shopper. Use this as a quick guide to common construction vocabulary.

Aerator Small, removable extension at the tip of a sink faucet that mixes streaming water with air to reduce splashing and conserve water.

Air hammer Banging noise in plumbing pipes caused by air infiltration.

Airway The space between roof insulation and roof board which allows for movement of air.

Alkali Soluble mineral salt or mixture capable of neutralizing acids.

Amortization  This term has developed through French and Old English from the Latin words “mors” or “mort” meaning death or dead. It is the killing off of an existing debt by regular partial payments. The word “mortgage” is also derived from the same Latin root

Anchor bolts  Bolts that secure a wooden sill plate to a concrete or masonry floor or wall.

APR   Annual Percentage Rate. The yearly interest percentage of a loan as expressed by the actual rate of interest paid.

Asphalt A residue from evaporated petroleum, insoluble in water but soluble in gasoline. Melts when heated.

Attic ventilators Screened openings that ventilate an attic.

Ball cock A device in a flush toilet consisting of a valve connected by a lever to a floating ball. The valve closes when the ball is raised and opens when it is lowered.

Baseboard A decorative and protective wood molding positioned where the wall meets the floor.

Base molding Molding used to trim the upper edge of interior baseboards.

Beam A structural member transversely supporting a load.

Bearing wall A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.

Brace An inclined piece of framing lumber applied to wall or floor to stiffen the structure. Often used on walls as temporary bracing until framing has been completed.

Brick veneer A facing of brick laid against and fastened to sheathing of a frame or tile wall.

Casing  Molding of various widths and thicknesses used to trim door and window openings at the jambs.

Caulk  a building joint sealant used where two dissimilar materials are joined. Caulk should be renewed prior to any painting.

Certificate of Title  In areas where attorneys examine abstracts or chains of title, a written opinion, executed by the examining attorney stating that title is vested as stated in the abstract.

Circuit breaker A switching device located in the main electrical panel, that opens and closes electrical circuits and automatically shuts off electricity to a circuit should it become overloaded. Once the electrical load is reduced, the breaker switch can be turned back on to resume normal service.

Closing  In some areas called a “settlement.” The process of completing a real estate transaction during which deeds, mortgages, leases and other required instruments are signed and/or delivered, an accounting between the parties is made, the money is disbursed, the papers are recorded, and all other details such as payment of outstanding liens and transfer of hazard insurance policies are attended to.

Closing Statement  A summation, in the form of a balance sheet, made at a closing, showing the amounts of debits and credits to which each party to a real estate transaction is entitled.

Concrete dusting Fine dust that accumulates on finished concrete.

Condenser An exterior unit that is part of the air conditioning system which expels heat into the outside.

Conduit, electrical A pipe, usually metal, in which insulated electrical wire is installed.

Corner bead An angled metal edging used to protect and form an edge where drywall panels meet at outside edges.

Damper A fireplace device that controls the air draft allowed into the fire.

Deed  A written document by which title to real estate is conveyed from one party to another.

Default  Failure to perform a promised task or to pay an obligation when due.

Delamination The separation of the top piles or laminate from the base to which they are attached. In vanity and kitchen countertops, the warping or detachment of laminate material from the wood substrate.

Dethatching The loosening and/or removal of matted grass and leaves from existing lawns, which allows the grass to breathe and therefore promotes healthy growth.

Downspout A pipe, usually of metal, for carrying water from roof gutters.

Drywall Also known as gypsum board or sheetrock, these large sheets are attached to the wall studs and ceiling framing to construct the walls and ceiling of the home.

Earnest Money  Down payment or a small part of the purchase price made by a purchaser as evidence of good faith.

Eaves The margin or lower part of a roof projection over a wall.

Efflorescence A white powdery substance that can form on new block, brick, or stucco finishes. It is composed of water soluble salts that are present in masonry materials and that rise to the surface via water evaporation.

Face frame The front of kitchen and bathroom cabinets, to which the hinged doors attach.

Face nailing Nailing through a finished, exposed surface so that the flat top of the nail head is still visible after nailing.

Facia or Fascia The exterior horizontal trim around rafters. Also positioned directly behind gutters and over gable trim boards.

Fee Simple  The highest degree of ownership which a person can have in real estate. An interest in real estate which gives the owner unqualified ownership and full power of disposition.

Filler board Cabinet grade wood used to fill gaps that occur between cabinets and wall openings.

Fillers A wood putty used in preparation of painting to fill holes or cracks in wood.

Flashing Sheet metal or other material used in roof and wall construction to protect a building from rain water penetrating the house structure.

Flue A vertical duct, constructed of sheet metal or clay, that channels smoke from a fireplace out of the home.

Footing A masonry section, usually concrete, in a rectangular form wider than the bottom of the foundation wall or pier it supports.

Foundation The supporting portion of a structure below the first-floor construction, or below grade, including the footings.

Frame construction A type of construction in which the structural parts are wood or depend upon a wood frame for support.

Gable Portion of the roof above the eave line of a double-sloped roof.

Gabled A vent with louvers located at the peak of table ends.

Good Faith Estimate  An estimate of closing costs the lender is required (under the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) to give to the buyer within at least three days of applying for a mortgage loan. This is the lender’s estimate – it must be completely accurate regarding the lender’s own charges and is supposed to be reasonably close to the charge third-party providers such as title insurers/agents, attorneys, surveyors, etc., may change.

Graphite lubricant A finely powdered graphite used as a lubricant.

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) A specialized electrical device that will interrupt electrical power where a weak electrical loss of ground occurs. Installed in areas where water may be present.

Grout A white or colored plaster-like mortar compound used to fill spaces between ceramic tiles.

Header A heavy timber and/or concrete beam that spans open spaces in walls, over doors and windows, and provides support to structural members above it.

Hip roof A roof that rises by inclined planes from all four sides.

Honeycomb In concrete, an open cell-like surface texture that occurs while pouring the concrete.

Insulation Any material high in resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceilings, or floors of a structure, will reduce the rate of heat flow.

Jamb Side and head-lining of a doorway, window or other opening.

Joint compound A plaster-like compound, used with drywall tape, to join sheets of drywall into a smooth, continuous panel.

Joint Tenants  Two or more persons who hold title to real estate jointly, with equal rights to share in its enjoyment during their respective lives with the provision that upon the death of a joint tenant, his share in the property passes to the surviving tenants, and so on, until the full title is vested in the last survivor.

Joists The horizontal supports used in constructing a floor.

Keeper plate Metal plate that keeps a door lock latch in place.

Louver An opening with a series of horizontal slats so arranged as to permit ventilation but to exclude rain, sunlight or vision.

Maintenance:  The process of maintaining or preserving something, or the state of being maintained.

Masonry Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, gypsum block or other similar building units or materials, or a combination of the same, bonded together with mortar to form a wall, pier, buttress or similar mass.

Mastic A thick, waterproof construction adhesive. Used on roofs.

Moldings Shaped strips of ornamental wood used around doors and windows. Also used for base molding, tile molding, as chair rails and for exterior area molding. Moldings finish the junction of different materials or shapes.

Nail pops Nails that come loose from a stud and push joint compound up. Caused by normal wood shrinkage and settlement.

Pointing The filling and finishing of broken mortar and stone cement masonry joints.

Ponding The collection of water on driveways, walkways, or lawns. Excessive ponding over time is indicative of grading problems.

Rafter One of a series of structural members of a roof designed to support roof loads. The rafters of a float roof are sometimes called roof joints.

Resilient flooring Vinyl flooring used in areas such as kitchens, halls, bathrooms and laundry rooms. It is capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation.

Ridge vent An open vent system located along roof peaks, which in conjunction with soffit vents, creates ventilation through the passage of natural air.

Roof sheathing Boards or sheet material fastened to roof rafters on which the shingles or other roof covering is laid.

R-Value The resistance of insulation materials (including windows) to heat passing through it. The higher the number, the greater the insulating value.

Scaling In concrete, the breaking away of the top surface of the concrete, caused by a freeze/thaw cycle. In painting, the flaking or peeling away of paint.

Sheathing The structural covering, usually wood boards or plywood, used over studs or rafters of a structure. Structural building board is normally used only as wall sheathing.

Shingles Roof covering of asphalt, asbestos, wood, tile, slate or other material cut to stock lengths, widths and thicknesses.

Siding The finish covering the outside walls of a frame building, whether made of horizontal weatherboards, vertical boards with battens, shingles or other material.

Sill Lowest member of the frame of a structure, resting on the foundation and supporting the floor joists or the uprights of a wall. The lower side of an opening, as a door- or window-sill.

Sill plates A support member laid on the top of the foundation wall that serves as a base for the wall framing.

Silicone A synthetic lubricating compound with high resistance to temperature change and water. When added to caulking, it extends elasticity properties and increases the life of the caulk.

Soffit Usually the underside of an overhanging cornice or roof.

Soffit vent A vent located under the ceiling of a roof overhang.

Spackle See joint compound.

Spalling Flaking or chipping of stone or other masonry material. Similar to scaling, but the chips and flakes are larger.

Stud One of a series of slender wood or metal vertical structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions.

Sub-flooring A wood sheet flooring directly over the joists that supports the underlayment or floor covering.

Swale The soil contour on a building lot deliberately shaped to channel rain water away from the home.

Survey  To determine the location, boundaries, area, or the elevations of land and structures upon the property. The map or plat drawn by a surveyor represents the property surveyed and shows the results of a survey.

Tack strips Wood strip with exposed tack points that is attached to the sub-flooring and holds stretched wall-to-wall carpeting in place.

Tenancy by Entities  An estate or interest in real estate predicated upon the legal fiction that a husband and wife are one person. A conveyance or devise to them (unless contrary intent is expressed) vests title in them as one person. Upon the death of either husband or wife, full title passes to the survivor.

Tenants in Common  Two or more persons in whom title to a single piece of real estate is vested in such a manner that they have a common or equal right to possession and enjoyment of the property, but each holds a separate individual interest or estate in the property. Each owner may sell or encumber his respective interest or dispose of it by will, and if he dies without leaving a will, his heirs inherit his undivided interest.

Tread Horizontal board in a stairway on which the foot is placed.

Trim The finish materials in a building, such as moldings, applied around openings or at the floor and ceilings of rooms.

Trusses Engineered wood structural members used to construct floors and roofs.

Turnaround An additional section of driveway where cars can be turned around.

Underlayment A flooring layer over the base subflooring, over which tile or resilient floor covering is laid.

Valley The internal angle formed by the junction of two sloping sides of a roof.

Vacuum breaker A back-flow preventer, this device is placed on exterior faucets to allow water to only flow out of the home.

Valve  An interior part of the faucet valve assembly where the valve rests.

Wall ties Metal pieces that tie masonry veneer to the frame of the home, or when pouring concrete, the metal pieces that hold concrete foundation wall forms in place until the concrete cures.

Washer Round, rigid rubber or plastic disc used as a sealing device in water faucet valves.

Weather stripping A weather insulating strip of material placed around doors and windows to reduce water entry into the home. Also reduces air infiltration into the home or the escape of conditioned air out of the home.

Washout An area where water has produced soil erosion.

Window balance A counter balance device in window housings that assists with the opening and closing of a window, and then keeps the window in position.


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